Book Review: Freakonomics & SuperFreakonomics by Steven D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner

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Freakonomics

This book was absolutely fascinating, a quick read, and after I finished reading it, I kept introducing things I had read in it into conversations. I only have two issues.

The first is that I wasn’t always convinced by the logic they used. Suggesting that the crime rate dropped in America because the children who would have committed the crimes had been aborted once the abortion laws had changed was a very long bow to draw and absolutely unable to be proved! I think it’s important to note that a lot of the conclusions the book’s authors draw are theories, not fact.

The second issue was with comparing strange things – like whether a gun or a swimming pool is more dangerous for children. It’s easy to say drowning kills more children, but nobody takes a school full of children hostage with a swimming pool.

Silly comparisons like that detract from an important message, which is that nobody should be able to get away with outlandish statements without being able to back it up. Evidence is key! And economic data can be useful, not boring.

I would thoroughly recommend reading this book but I would also thoroughly recommend reading the criticism of this book and then drawing your own logical conclusions.

3 stars

*First published on 5 January 2015 on Goodreads

SuperFreakonomics

I don’t think it will come as a surprise to anyone when I say that if you liked Freakonomics, you will like SuperFreakonomics, too. It’s more of the same, an unconventional economist and his writing partner trawling through reams of data and drawing out some surprising conclusions. Often those conclusions are a bit of a stretch (the giant hoses in the sky and more pollution to solve global warming being a couple of them) but it all certainly makes you think.

Sometimes reading this book is like being sucked into a whirlpool as the writers like to follow a winding path in setting up their premise, following the evidence and eventually arriving at their conclusion. But they get there eventually.

If I had to choose between Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics, I would probably choose the first one because some of the scenarios they explored actually had results (like identifying cheating teachers in Chicago). There were less results in this book, perhaps because they chose to write about enormous problems like climate change and terrorism.

I would definitely recommend reading this if you are looking for something to talk about with friends or book club members – you will get plenty of talking topics out of it – and for anyone who likes to read material that makes you think long after you have finished reading.

3 stars

*First published on 5 March 2015 on Goodreads

 

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